Opinion: Object lesson


These last few of my birthdays have found my children getting into a groove in the gift giving department. When they were young, a finger painted piece of construction paper would be delivered (and received) with unbounded pride and satisfaction. They were certain and secure in the knowledge that I’d love it – and, they were right. I did. My expectations and their desire to give came into perfect alignment. As we grew older, their thoughts and my desires drifted a bit. Birthdays, other than their own, brought a sense of foreboding, a concern that they’d not be able to deliver something that I might like or enjoy. And, I, at times, took their insecurity as indicating a waning interest in us as their parents. Maybe, I even felt a little sorry for myself.

Then in recent years, our boys – now maturing nicely into fine young Americans – have brought an indication of anticipation and excitement into the exchange. They have, as they once did, extoled me with their confidence of how much I will love their gift. Rightly deciding that a gift doesn’t have to come from a department store, they have taken to giving me gifts of their time. They’ve promised, and followed through, on finding activities that we could enjoy together and committing themselves to it. And like them, I’ve committed just the same.

Isn’t the notion of making a gift to someone about showing them that we honor them, and what they seek, as much as we find our own joy in the giving? It is often said that it is impossible to “buy” for we men of a certain age. Anything we want, we already have. True. But perhaps, we’ve missed the point. Is it possible that a gift is a commitment and not an object?